The first big risk I took in November 2013 was driving an hour away to my first EdCamp, EdCampNYC. I heard about it on Twitter from Sharon Plante. I really wouldn't know anyone there, it was on a Saturday morning, I really didn't enjoy driving into the city... good gracious, what the heck was I thinking? I had such a great experience, I went to EdCampNJ two weeks later. That was a two hour drive at the crack of dawn, but totally worth it.
So, after those two EdCamps, I was totally hooked! I have attended many EdCamps in the last 18 months, most within a 3 hour driving radius: EdCampNYC, EdCampNJ, EdCampLDR, EdCampCapeCod, EdCampCT and the online EdCampHOME. Three of those I attended within 2 weeks last summer. I did mention that I was hooked, right?
Then, as I was tweeting with two of my local Twitter colleagues, Sharon Plante and Rob Pennington, we realized there was no local EdCamp in Southwest Connecticut. I know, I know... Connecticut is a small state, and we do have awesome EdCampCT in August (it's beautiful location is an hour+ drive from here) and terrific EdCampRSD6 in July (also an hour away!) As leaders we knew we had to bring this experience closer to home so that local colleagues could experience the type of learning that we were experiencing because we are willing to travel a few hours.
A few weeks into our planning, I stumbled upon another group of educators on Twitter discussing planning an EdCamp in Southwest CT too! So we joined forces with Joel Pardalis, Jimmy Sapia, Sean Hutchinson and Frank Rodriguez, and planned the entire thing using Voxer, Google Docs and Google Hangouts. We did not all meet face to face until yesterday morning when we set up for EdCampSWCT. Our experiences at various EdCamps and the Corwin book The EdCamp Model helped us get ready for the big day.
The night before e EdCampSWCT the Voxes were fast and furious! Did we remember this, that and the other thing? What about Sharpies and name tags? Do we need more coffee? Everyone was in an "Oh my gosh, I hope we didn't forget anything" mode! And yesterday morning at Brien McMahon High School in Norwalk, CT, we set up for and held the first ever EdCamp SouthWest CT. We had over 120 educators, students and parents attend this inaugural event! It was a great turnout and everyone was thrilled to learn with and from each other. Many people drove two to three hours to be there. Hmm, that sounds really familiar...
And as Sharon says in her reflection of the day, if seven educators can plan a terrific day of learning for over 100 other educators- with no budget, no mandatory or planned sessions, some delicious pastries, bagels and coffee, how can we improve PD for ourselves? Do teachers need "mandatory" training, or can they choose what they need, or even teach their colleagues what they know?
I am fortunate to teach in a district where I am encouraged to learn, lead and help others. We have had faculty meetings where teachers can choose what they want to learn, EdCamp style. Attending EdCamps turned me into an EdCamp organizer! Want to attend one? Here is the EdCamp calendar.